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The Ambiguous World of the “Hipster”

by Stephanie Halovanic | University of Missouri

F Posted in: Sports and Culture, Voices P Posted on: April 9, 2012
Stephanie Halovanic Stephanie Halovanic

Hipster clothing has become a notable style of dress for today’s youth culture. If ever someone dresses a bit edgy, retro, or fashionably daring, you often hear “You look hipster,” said in both complimentary and critical ways. So what exactly defines an outfit or look as “hipster?” How would we describe this hipster culture to an outsider?

There are many different connotations within the youth culture as to what exactly being hipster means. The Webster-Merriam dictionary defines hipster as a noun meaning “a person who is unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns (as in jazz or fashion).” Also, it rhymes with quipster, “a person inclined to make sarcastic or witty remarks,” which could relate to the word’s derivation. This ambiguous definition shows the oxymoron in the identification of all things hipster. Being unusually aware of the unconventional.

Because the idea of what it means to be hipster is relatively vague, people are ultimately left to a self-interpretation of what they define as hipster. There can be different levels of hipsters, different magnitudes of it. Alexis Marcus, a sophomore at Missouri from Birmingham, Alabama, explained her view of what hipster means. She explained that you can wear hipster accessories, such as glasses or shoes, but this does not make you a hipster.

“It is a complete fashion style, not just an accessory. It is a way of presenting yourself primarily through fashion,” Marcus said. “A hipster is dressed head to toe in hipster clothing, it’s an entity.”

Riley Cowling, a sophomore Missouri student from Kansas City, explained that although she herself has been labeled as a hipster, she would not considered herself one. She too finds the word very vague and hard to describe.

“I do have pieces that I guess could fall under that the hipster category, but I do not think that I personally fall under that genre,” Cowling said. “I think that cool thrift store things are hipster, anything artsy — I don’t know how to describe it. Some people blur the term with hippie, but I think that is wrong.”

So then, what makes an item of fashion considered hipster as opposed to a regular, mainstream item of clothing? Again, because the definition of hipster is fairly personal, a hipster costume, if you will, is made up of a combination of nice clothing worn in a “funky way” with a twist of vintage, all stemming from the model’s personal likes and style. One may argue that a hipster outfit is a composition of clothing that is not the style of the majority, but the argument against that definition is that hipster dress itself is becoming the majority in fashion styles. The youth culture’s access to nearly every shop in the world via the internet makes finding unique and edgy styles, colors, and fashions easy.

Melissa Ware, a psychology major at MU from Dallas, Texas, says she spends hours on Tumblr, a blogging site that displays photos as a fashion archive.

“I can spend hours just zoning out to music looking through hundreds of photos of crazy outfits.”

Ware explained that when she went out shopping, those hours of looking through fashion images affected her fashion taste, and she was able to compose stylish, hipster outfits in the stores. Stores such as Urban Outfitters, Free People and Forever 21 market to this hipster-dressing demographic. They make all sorts of clothing items that cater to someone who just wants an edgy pair of earrings or someone who wants the whole shebang.

Ultimately, hipster dressing is a sort of personal fashion statement made by an individual. Whether you are considered a full-fledged hipster-dressing fashionista or you simply enjoy of piece of flair every now and then, expressing yourself through your fashion style can help tell a lot about yourself, and may have you lumped into the genre of a hipster. Embrace it.

Stephanie Halovanic Stephanie Halovanic Stephanie, a fashion writer for NGJ, is currently an international journalism student at the University of Missouri. She hopes to pursue a career writing and editing for Vogue editions around the world, and plans to eventually work on international documentaries. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Stephanie has studied abroad in countries such as Brazil, Spain, and France. She enjoys Kenny G and a good steak dinner.

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